Bioethics Blogs

The Price of Academic Freedom

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

Alice Dreger resigned from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine/Memorial Hospital this week. The slash is because last year the hospital and the medical school merged. For the Medical Humanities & Bioethics program at Northwestern, that has meant a tumultuous year as it is readjusted to the new landscape.

Alice Dreger is a medical historian and advocate. Her position at the Medical Humanities & Bioethics program at Northwestern was a part-time, non-tenure track faculty member at Northwestern. She was working there when she had a Guggenheim Fellowship and worked there during the release of her latest book, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science, a book that looks at freedom in science and censorship.

Ironically, Dreger resigned as a result of a case of censorship. The Program used to publish a cutting edge journal, Atrium. Each issue would focus on a theme and solicit manuscripts that spoke to that idea. Dreger was guest editor for an issue on “Bad Girls” and one of the articles, “Head Nurses” was written by William Peace, a Syracuse University professor, who described being 18 in 1978, paralyzed, and depressed. He describes a compassionate sex act by a nurse that helped him to recover.

The Northwestern administration was appalled that a journal under their “brand” would publish such a text. They demanded that Atrium create a “vetting committee” that would review articles and decide what could be published. The administration claimed that since Northwestern paid for it and its name was used, that the journal was part of the brand and the administration gets to control how the University/Hospital are represented to the world.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.